The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

Why I Read It: I liked the cover and because it was written about a culture I not very familiar with.

Where I Got It:

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy coming of age and connecting with the past stories.

Narrator: Laural Merlington

Publisher: Tantor Media (2007)

Length: 12 hours 39 minutes

This is a modern day fiction set mostly in Istanbul. The story starts off following Zeliha, 19, and her trip to the abortion clinic. Then we jump to Arizona where we follow a recently divorced Kentucky transplant women, Rose, and her year old baby girl, Armanoush. Jump ahead roughly 20 years, and Zeliha’s daughter Asya is a strong willed women that has been raised by a gaggle of aunties and no men. Her father is never mentioned and the only male relative, uncle Mustafa, lives in America married to a plump blonde wife. Armanoush, an Armenian-American, divides her time between her mother’s place in Arizona and her Armenian family in San Fransisco. The bulk of this book is about these two young ladies; one seeks answers about her past and the other treats her past as dead and buried.

Elif Shafak built these characters with distinct voices and it was so very easy for me to picture Asya stuck at the dinner table with her well-meaning nagging aunties asking about her ballet class. Armanoush flew to Istanbul on a whim and it was nice to see that she had certain assumptions (incorrect though they turned out) about Turkish culture. I could see myself making the same mistakes. This book was by turns serious and funny, touching and exasperating, and has been the spark for me to explore Turkish and Armenian cuisine.

Laural Merlington did an absolutely fantastic job – with humor and sadness, male and female voices, and most of all accents – from Turkish and Armenian words/names to a Kentucky accent. I would not hesitate to listen to another book narrated by her.

What I Liked: The entire atmosphere captured in this book; nearly all female cast of characters without being feminazi-ish; Auntie Banu and her captured djin; Johny Cash got lots of play time in Istanbul; the ending was a bit tough but gave closure.

What I Didn’t Like: Some of the minor characters had long-winded designators instead of names and at times it became tedious to hear them repeated multiple times in one passage.

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